Issue #51 – Amore Detestabilis

This entry is part 3 of 14 in the series The Descendants Vol 5: How the World Changes

Part 5

“Are you serious with this plan?” Alloy asked as he and Facsimile walked side by side along the hotel hallway. He was pushing a large room service cart, the kind the Dornez sent up for when the waitstaff was expected to stick around and actually serve the meal.

His armor was off and he was down to his ‘base’ uniform; an all black, close fitting flight suit like powered armor pilots wore, complete with padded gloves and slipper-like footwear. Just in case, he had his chain belt on, layered with as much titanium as he could without making it so heavy it drug his pants off. He’d thrown on a chef’s coat and hat over that and buttoned the popped collar all the way up to hide the fact that he had the cowling up covering his hair and mouth.

Every time they passed a shiny surface, he was reminded that he looked like an eccentric reality TV chef.

“She is always serious about these types of plans.” Ephemeral’s voice came from under the cart. All the better to conceal him while he projected. The astral warping was getting to him; though it might have blown his cover, he chose to speak aloud rather than mentally. Actively using his powers here was a constant fight.

Facsimile scoffed, “You’re just all worried and stuff because of this emotion thing. This is brilliant. And after Ephemeral hands them their astral asses, you’ll agree.” She laid a hand on his arm and let it linger and move just a bit too long. “So don’t worry your muscly little mind. Um… pretty little mind.” Her hand didn’t break contact.

Alloy shifted away uncomfortably. “Fax!” There were so many ways that was wrong, especially in the form she was wearing. “At least remember you’ve got an open com.”

A throaty chuckle that really didn’t go with that form escaped her. “Right. Well if you’re listening, Mission Control, I don’t mind sharing, you know.”

“Fax!”

“I am so glad this isn’t a video link.” Tink replied. “Okay, Facsimile, head in the game, remember your plan? I’m not sure I like you going in there alone… but at this point, you’re going to give Alloy an embolism if you stay out there with him.”

Facsimile paused, considering the exchange, then she growled at herself. “God, I think it’s getting worse. Let’s just do this thing.”

“The suite Ephemeral marked is coming up on your left.” Tink replied.

“Great. Do some distracting, stop the emotion screw, then back home to wash the shame of this day off me.” said Facsimile. “I owe Lily an apology; it’s hard being a hussy.” With that, she headed to the door, taking a moment to get into proper character for her present shape.

***

After their moment of awkwardness, Dana and Wayne tried to go their own separate ways within the confines of the suite. Wayne was on the couch, watching Live Metal, while Dana web surfed on her palmtop while trying to pretend she wasn’t watching Live Metal. She’d never seen it before, but she was enjoying the bickering teammates and their shouting mentor.

Someone knocked on the suite’s door and said something that was muffled by the high quality door.

The two glanced at one another, then back at the TV, where the mentor was explaining some piece of tech to the team as if he were addressing dim children that didn’t fully understand his language. There was a brief, silent standoff. Dana drew first.

“Answer the door.”

“Me.” Wayne groused.

“Yes you, you’re closer.”

“But I’m watching my show.”

“Yeah, well I’m busy going over case notes.” She lied smoothly. “Unless you’re going to learn to body slam from robot animals, I have the better reason not to.”

Wayne sighed and got up grumbling, “We have jetpacks and flying cars, but would it have killed them to invent a door answering robot?” He didn’t bother checking the peephole; After all, he was a professional boxer before he became a wrestler. That and the bit about centuries of combat experience and mystical powers. Plus knowing for a fact that reincarnation worked. Safety was never quite the issue for him that it was for others.

It appeared that he didn’t need to worry anyway. Outside his door was a stooped, old woman in a garish, blue, red and white flower patterned blouse and khakis. She squinted up at him even through her thick glasses.

“Oh, thank you Chester.” She said after a moment of staring at him. “Forgot m’ key.” Without further ado, she tottered into the room while he was still confused.

It was taking Facsimile every once of self control she had to not fly off the handle. Suddenly, she knew how Warrick felt when he had to work with Juniper’s parents, or the Whitecoat. This was Wayne Jones, The Blockade.

One of the few things she’d agreed with her family about was boxing and Wayne Jones was her favorite. She wasn’t much into wrestling, but she’d watch whenever The Blockade was fighting. He’d been her first celebrity crush and then back in January, he’d combined that with her other great love when he did spots for Burger Builders advertising their Burger Blockade promotion for the football playoffs (Eight Man-sized Burgers, any way you want em, plus a bucket of fries for twenty dollars).

But she must not fan-girl. The old lady she was supposed to be wouldn’t fan girl.

While she was thinking of this, it gave Wayne time to get over his confusion. He backed up and stepped into her way. “Um… lady, I’m not Chester. This is the wrong room.”

She chuckled. “Always the rascal, Chester. That why I married you.” She patted him on the chest and cursed herself as she felt her amped hormones surge again. She had chosen poorly.

From her place on the bed, Dana cackled. “So after all these years, I find out you’re cheating on me.”

Showtime. Facsimile forced down the unbidden thoughts in her head and gasped. “Chester! Another woman in our room! You beast! I can’t!” She gasped as dramatically as she dared and grabbed her chest. “Oh m’ Lord. Oh m’ Jesus!” Rolling her eyes around in her head, she started twitching and pitched forward into Wayne.

He caught her, but it wasn’t easy to hold on, as she started spasming. “What… what the hell?”

“What wrong with her?” Dana jumped off the bed.

“M’ heart! M’ heart!” Facsimile moaned.

“A heart attack. You gave her a heart attack!” Wayne accused.

“That’s not a heart attack. That’s flailing… in fact, it looks familiar.”

“It is so a heart attack, gobhead!” Facsimile said before she could catch herself. “I mean, there’s a tightenin’ in m’ chest! I’m comin’ ‘Lizbeth!”

“I remember now.” Dana snapped her fingers. “Remember what we used to do with our powers after the Adversarial force? Umm Quias? Kursi?”

“You think she’s possessed?”

“I’m not possessed, stupid. I’m having a heart attack!” Facsimile protested.

“They like insulting people. And they’re terrible actors.” reasoned Dana.

“Hey!”

“You like insulting people too.” Wayne said with a smirk.

“Shut up.” She snapped. “Now hold her steady, I’ll take care of this.” Placing her hand next to her chest, she made a fist as a glowing cloud of red energy appeared. As it gathered, she whispered “ Locum in manu mea defendit ferro”

She moved her hand out and to her side, causing the red cloud to trail behind it, spiraling inward until it locked into a rigid, but still oddly ethereal shape; a sword.

Facsimile abandoned all pretense of being an old lady. “Whoa. Wait a minute, what are you going to do with that? Stop. Let’s talk about this!”

“Talk nothing. Time for you to get out of the old lady.” With that, Dana took one lunging step and plunged the tip of her blade into Facsimile’s chest.

***

Ephemeral left his body and passed easily through the wall on the astral side. The Dornez was only a few years old and thus didn’t have much in the way of engrained emotions, even form the staff. He emerged on the other side in time to see Dana call on the Sword that Protects.

From the astral side, it looked like a thin slice of jagged, gray crystal and as it moved, the greyness spread to chase away the permeating, rose light of the astral. It darted toward Facsimile’s ultra-vibrant, indigo and gold astral form, currently streaked with the dark, lush colors of her intensified emotion.

He tried to move against it, to bring his powers to stop it, but the warping of the plane was like a swift current, fighting him for every inch. The crystalline blade made contact, and the vibrancy dimmed, muted and became gray as well.

***

Tink’s gasp in his ear shocked Alloy out of his thoughts. He’d been standing off to one side of the door, out of sight and fretting since the moment Facsimile went inside. So deep into his worried thoughts had he been, that he’d actually missed hearing what was going on in the room entirely.

“Go.” Tink said quickly. “Get in there. Something’s wrong. According to this, she just fell asleep. She had been monitoring the coms, which also returned vitals information on whoever was wearing it. Every metric that could still be measured in spite of Facsimile’s strange physiology had just dropped to resting levels.

Even before Alloy could move, Isp and Osp were springing into action.

***

The spark of outrage and defiance in the old woman’s eyes faded and she relaxed against Wayne, who was having a minor freakout. “What the hell did you do?!”

“She was possessed. Usually, when I stab a possessed person like that, it drives the demon out.”

“Do you see any demons flying out of her?!” Wayne tried to get the old lady on her feet. She was still breathing, thank God, but he had no idea what the Sword the Protects had done to her.

“Well… no.” Dana admitted. She recalled very clearly the translucent, tentacled specters that traditionally fled hosts struck with the Sword. “But I thought I was fixing things.”

Wayne gave her an odd look. “When has stabbing an old lady ever made things better?!” A moment later, Osp illustrated his point beautifully.

Even though the door was still slightly open, the tentacle struck it with enough force to break through before it could swing aside, ripping it off it’s hinges and carrying it forward into the room. Through whatever mechanism it and its sibling used to see, it swiftly assessed the situation: Facsimile in less than fighting form with one stranger holding her and another thrusting a weapon into her chest.

A shriek like sheet metal being torn apart erupted from it and it surged toward the one with the sword. Isp followed, destroying the door further, and moving to wrap around Wayne’s neck.

Dana instinctively tapped into one of the gifts given to her by Amorocca and twitched sideways faster than even Osp could track. It wasn’t the same as moving quickly, it was more like acting outside of time in quick spurts. The tentacle passed her by and she took the opportunity to leap back away from it.

She looked toward where the door had been and found Alloy there, only he was dressed bizarrely like a chef. Deductive skilled that served her well in her career kicked in now. If Alloy was in disguise and had just barged in loaded for bear when she used the Sword on the old lady…

Suddenly stabbing the old lady felt like a bad idea again.

Across from her, Isp lifted Wayne by his neck, causing him to drop Facsimile in the process. Being no stranger to choke-holds, for even the ones he got into as part of a scripted performance could be dangerous, he didn’t panic and took breathes when he could.

And while one hand sought to force just a bit of slack into the metallic coil around his neck, the other went to his chest. “Sinte…” He croaked. “Sinte scuta… continere… Vincenti!” Bluish white force seeped into the minute space between his neck and the tentacle, exerting a force beyond even Isp’s impressive strength until the pressure lessened and allowed him to breath and a moment later, slip free.

Like Dana, he too tapped one of Amorocca’s gifts and without moving a muscle, shifted back out of the tentacle’s range as if the floor was made of ice and he’d been given a good shove.

“Fax, you alright?” Alloy barged into the room to her side. His chain belt melted and flowed up his body and then down his arm to form a shield.

She glanced at him as if he was a stranger sitting down beside her on a park bench. “I’m fine.” She replied dully.

Picking up on Alloy’s worry, Osp flexed and turned for another pass at hitting Dana. She countered by reaching out and grabbing it. Using it’s own mass and speed, she bent her back and vaulted up and over it. Flexing more than she knew her body was capable of before making the attempt, she cartwheeled the tentacle’s length, finishing by slamming a foot into Alloy’s face.

The armored hero, unused to taking a hit while unarmored, crumpled and even before he hit the ground, she pushed off into a back-flip that just missed flinging her hard against the ceiling. The move allowed her to narrowly avoid both tentacles as they whipped toward her, determined to avenge the attack on her friend.

She landed in a three-point stance, completely open to their next attack. The golden hued duo did sinuous U-turns in midair and came at her with force.

But suddenly, Wayne was between her and them. With a gesture, the collar of bluish force flowed and changed into a standing triangle that took the twin impacts as if they were the flicks of a finger.

For a moment, all she could do was look up at him, stunned. It had been a long time since either one of them had defended the other. Even though she remembered it happening over and over again, something in her refused to believe it. But something else wanted to.

***

Ephemeral ground his symbolic teeth as the pressure between the pair ramped up with proximity. It took the whole of his powers to get this close and doing so wracked him with agonizing pain. But he would not give up. Fighting the maelstrom of energies, he reached for the pin shredding into her Ajna chakra. As he did, the resistance lessened a fraction and the eyes of her chained astral form turned to him, pleading. Something deep inside was fighting, trying to help him.

Heartened and grateful, he forced his will upon the pin. Something far greater had driven it home and he got the sense that beyond that woman’s astral body, it connected to something more vast and powerful than even his senses could fathom.

But he didn’t need to pull it free, just reposition it to where it wasn’t doming harm….

***

Dana shivered.

“Hey!” Wayne barked to get her attention. She blinked at him. “Stop staring at me and hit the button!”

Suddenly everything seemed to come back into focus. The Shield the Overcomes was flared out in the quarter dome before Wayne, shifting slightly to block each of the tentacles’ attacks. But despite it’s prodigious defensive capability, it didn’t change the fact that they were trapped in the room.

Alloy was getting to his feet and once he did, she knew that half the room would turn against them, not to mention what might happen when the others arrived.

“Right.” She said, pretending as if nothing was wrong at all. “We’re out of here.” It was only then that she saw that her purse with the bauble Manikin had given them to end their ‘mission’ was on the nightstand, halfway across the room.

“Keep them busy.” She ordered and made a sprint for it.

Isp and Osp made for her the moment she was past the Shield’s protection, but Wayne reshaped the energy field into a scoop that caught the twins and forced them back toward Alloy.

Facsimile was just sitting up and trying to shake the feeling that her head and heart were full of cotton. “I feel as though I should be angry…” She stated with mounting confusion. Then her eyes lit upon the sprinting form of Dana. “Oh wait. I am angry!” With a roar of indignation, she shifted into the golden, winged body of Facsimile and hurled herself at the other woman.

Dana saw her coming out of the corner of her eye and brought up the sword to guard. The ethereal weapon force Facsimile to check her lunge, buying precious seconds as Dana plunged a hand into her purse. She came up with what looked like a keychain decorated with tiny gray mosaic tiles with a fire opal at the center.

“No way in hell you’re pulling more magic on us.” Facsimile snarled and charged. As she did, a guard grew up over her arm similar to the shell of a snapping turtle. It didn’t help as the red no-blade of the Sword that Protects passed right through.

It only went through her arm, but the effect was immediate. Facsimile slumped, dead-eyes once again, no longer motivated to finish the curse that had been forming on her lips.

“That.. could be useful.” Dana noted, grabbing up her purse. “Time to go.” With that, she crushed the opal with her thumb. There was no effect the heroes could see. Dana and Wayne simply stopped being in the room, replaced by a pair of hollow thumps as air slammed into the void left by their bodies.

Whatever effect the Sword had, it wasn’t was long-lasting when it didn’t strike the center. Facsimile rolled to her knees, looked around, and cursed loud enough for the whole floor to hear.

Series Navigation<< Issue #50 – Operation: All InIssue #52 – Scenes From a Changing World >>

About Vaal

Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter.

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